Over the last 12 months, multiple companies have established themselves as serious contenders in the streaming field. YouTube launched its dedicated gaming section, Hitbox quickly established a large following, thanks in part to a partnership with the OG Dota 2 team, and Azubu revealed a new layout and brought in new management.
But quietly, in the background, the streaming service DingIt TV also launched and quickly established itself as one of the brightest up and coming services, thanks to some unique ideas and outstanding technology.
Getting to where they are now, with well over 20 million viewers, hasn't exactly been easy for DingIt. Not only have they entered an already crowded market, but they have tried to do things differently, focusing on smaller eSports events and using a new kind of streaming tech that requires a browser plug-in, which hasn't gone down well with all its users.
Having overcome community backlash though, the future is now looking bright for the UK start-up, and they could easily become one of the biggest players in the streaming space before the end of 2016.
"We have been absolutely delighted with the rate of audience growth this year, which has outstripped our projections by some margin," says Simon Voysey, the chief revenue officer at DingIt. "As of January, we have 20.4 million users globally and we're seeing a substantial increase in returning visitors to DingIt, which is a strong indicator that our audience like what they see. Best of all is that we have relied mainly on word of mouth and content marketing to achieve these numbers."
One of the main reasons that people have been visiting, and then returning, to DingIt is the focus on eSports, instead of trying to cater for every game and genre under the sun. Unlike almost all other streaming platforms, DingIt have specialised in broadcasting a range of eSports events, such as the StarCraft II tournament StarLeague, instead of partnering with individual streamers as we have seen with Azubu and Hitbox.
While they may not boast the big names that rival companies have signed to their platforms such as Lee 'Faker' Sang-hyeok (Azubu) or Johan 'BigDaddyN0tail' Sundstein (Hitbox), they do have one of the broadest selections of high level competitive gaming among streaming sites not called Twitch, and that tactic seems to have worked well. This week alone fans can watch high level CS:GO in the Operation Kinguin event, and watch some of the best players in the world battle it out in StarLeague.
"To date, eSports has been our priority. It was a big call to opt for lower level eSports events, but having consistent content going that appeals to a global audience has proved a really good strategy for DingIt so far," Voysey says.
Whereas working with streamers would give DingIt only one source of content, in the form of the stream itself, focusing on eSports has given them multiple ways to use and broadcast the tournaments. Not only do DingIt stream the matches live, as you would expect, but they also create highlight packages for almost all of their events, which are available at all times.
"For eSport fans, we offer regular and consistent content, meaning you can get a fix of competitive gaming everyday. But we also show highlights of the best moments of our live events for viewers that aren't quite at the stage of committing to a full four to six hour event broadcast. What we are seeing is that these lighter viewers are gradually moving into the channel pages and longer broadcasts, so we're helping introduce eSports to new fans."
Dingit have managed to secure many top tournaments, as well as running a few of their own, meaning the streaming site is the only official way to watch. However, this move has resulted in some backlash, as DingIt requires users to install a browser plug-in if using Google Chrome. Some fans have complained that, as they are unwilling to install the plug-in, they are unable to watch the event. This has in turn resulted in some misconceptions about the plug-in, which Voysey is quick to clear up.
"We see stuff like 'it's malware' and 'DingIt is stealing your data', but the majority of our users understand the plug-in is there to make it possible to watch streams and not to steal their secret gaming tricks and strategies," he says.
The reason that DingIt requires the plug-in is because of the company's unique technology. In order to offer up the quickest and most efficient video streams, DingIt uses the UDP streaming protocol and a few other technical tricks, whereas the likes of Twitch and YouTube use TCP. UDP allows for a more efficient transfer of data, Voysey says, as there are fewer steps needed in sending the information – but the Chrome browser is unable to identify that the incoming data is a video stream. The plug-in identifies the incoming data as video and allows it to be displayed on the screen.
The move to use this streaming technology has resulted in perceived negatives for some users, but Voysey seems convinced that the positive far outweigh them. "We do believe the model for eSports is broken in its current form, as scaling audiences on a global basis becomes extremely expensive," Voysey says, frankly. "Our technology means that the costs are greatly reduced, which means it's possible to reach gaming fans all over the world at a much reduced cost."
With a wealth of top eSports content and some of the best tech in the scene, DingIt has almost all of the tools that it needs to challenge for the streaming crown. Add in some of the other innovative features they have – Click Pro allows you to see exactly what streamers are doing on their keyboard – and they have one of the best packages out there for in-depth streams. They may still be a fair way off actually challenging Twitch for the top spot, but 2016 looks like the year DingIt could become a regular streaming platform of choice for many of the biggest names, and talks are already in place for some exciting advancements.
"We hope to be able to build on the success of 2015 by offering some larger eSports events to our users, with some pretty exciting developments for brand partners," Voysey says. "In terms of services, there are some really exciting technologies coming, as well as the growth of mobile content that could develop into a large market segment. We're also very close to TV conversations, so there will be plenty of opportunity for the right partners with the right content and technology to power it."
With more and more mainsteam brands coming into eSports – ESPN is starting up an eSports wing, while Activision recently purchased MLG to try and create their own version of regular eSports broadcasting – DingIt could be in a strong position to help make these services a reality further down the line, or work with another big player to show regular eSports content on a prime time TV slot.
Exactly where DingIt will be after another year in existence is difficult to predict. While having another annus mirabilis would be too much for any start-up to ask for, their superior technology and regular, exclusive eSports content will surely continue to bring in viewers. If they continue to form new partnerships with even bigger events then viewer numbers will surely continue to rise, and they could soon be up there challenging the big names. Stay tuned.